2009 was easily the best year of birding I have had so far. My year list, with one trip to Florida, came to 233 species, with 56 life birds, beating my total of 191 in 2008 by a lot. My life list jumped to 272, with my milestone 250th bird a Worm-eating Warbler in June. My birding highlights, by month:
January- My first life bird of the year was an American Tree Sparrow on the 4th. I joined the New York State Young Birders Club, and went to the meeting and field trip in Duchess County, where we found Bald Eagles and a Red-headed Woodpecker.
February- Definitely the best month of the year for me, birdwise. I started off with the rare and irruptive White-winged Crossbill as a life bird on the first. A six lifer trip to Jones Beach, the best of the year, included Snowy Owl. And my florida trip netted another 4 lifers, including painted bunting, plus cool Florida specialties like Swallow-tailed Kite, Wood Stork, and Spoonbill. I ended the month having seen 4 owls- snow and saw-whet at Jones beach, barred in Florida, and great horned at the marshlands conservancy
March- The highlight was again crossbills on a NYSYBC trip to Sullivan county, but I saw three life birds on three different days- Snow Goose, displaying Woodcocks, and Snipe.
April- The start of spring migration was highlighted by a three-lifer day at the Marshlands Conservancy with a Ruff!, probably the rarest bird of the year.
May- The warbler section of my life list had some huge holes that were filled with a trip to central park on the third. I saw five life birds, highlighted by a stunning male Blackburnian Warbler at close range and eye level. At a David Sibley lecture in Greenwich, I found my own semi-rarity, a Prothonotary Warbler in CT. A NYSYBC trip to Long Island rounded out the month with two more warbler lifers- Chestnut-sided and Blue-winged, plus my first woodcock I had seen in day.
June- Most of the month was slow, but I had a great weekend at the very end of the month. Friday got me the first Clapper Rails I had actually seen at the Marshlands Conservancy. A NYSYBC trip to Doodletown on Saturday got 5 lifers, including Hooded and Cerulean Warblers and my 250th bird, a Worm-eating Warbler. On Sunday I went with Benjamin and Ryan to Hammonasset, where we saw King Eider (25oth ABA bird- lifer), Seaside Sparrow (200th year bird), and Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow.
July- I spent much of July at my beach house in Massachusetts. My first pelagic birds came on a whale watch of of Plymouth, where I saw greater, sooty, and Cory's Shearwaters, all lifers, plus northern gannets and Wilson's storm-petrels. The other 3-lifer day was on a weekly "Friday Morning Birders" walk on the last of the month, when we found Black Terns, Whimbrels, and White-rumped Sandpipers, as well as a horned lark, least terns, and piping plovers.
August- Not a very birdy month, but I did have what was probably my second rarest bird of the year, a White-winged Dove chased by the Friday Morning Birders in Manomet, MA. A trip to Race Point, Provincetown, on the tip of cape cod netted a really cool bird, Parasitic Jaeger, as well as some Greater Shearwaters, my first from land.
September- My last Friday Morning Birding of the summer found a Marbled Godwit, a good bird and a lifer, along with another Parasitic Jaeger and some signs of impending winter, or at least fall- loons. A long postponed and overdue fall trip to Jamaica Bay WR in Queens for shorebirds was highly successful. Among 4 life birds were a pair of Avocets, rare in this region.
My life Lincoln's Sparrow was the only life bird of a fall migration that I almost entirely missed.
October- No lifers, and only one year bird (a GC Kinglet), but I spend some time at the hawkwatch in Greenwich, which was fun.
November- The only birds of note were a rare pair of sandhill cranes that flew by the hawkwatch.
December- I ended the two month streak of not seeing a life bird with two at the Edith Read Sanctuary nearby- Lesser Scaup and Purple Sandpiper. My first Christmas Bird Count with Ted in Greenwich was highlighted by finally finding Rusty Blackbirds, 48 Vultures, and a Barred Owl. Christmas at my beach house ended the year, with the usual winter loons and sea ducks, plus my life Great Cormerant and some Snow Buntings.
2009 was great- 2010 could be just as good or better- who knows? That's part of the fun of birding.